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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Refugee reunion

By Zhang Zhilong (Global Times)

16:26, December 30, 2011

It's been over six decades since Jewish refugee Vera Sasson left Shanghai, but she still remembers the Zhous, a Chinese family who provided aid and comfort to the poverty-stricken Jews exiled from Nazi Germany.

Last month, 62 years after leaving China in 1949 when she was 10, Sasson was finally reunited with the family. To her sorrow, family patriarch Zhou Zhiji died in 2001, but, thanks to a city-wide campaign, Sasson located his daughter, Zhou Huizhen, her childhood playmate. The two elderly ladies reminisced about childhood days over video chat.

Zhou Zhiji worked for a cigarette factory, spoke fluent English and often helped his neighbors write English letters.

"Uncle Zhou protected me and always tried to make life better for me," said Sasson, now 73. Her family left Vienna in 1939 when she was a baby, after the Nazi Anschluss between Germany and Austria in 1938.

They arrived in Shanghai as did 25,000 other Jewish refugees during the late 1930s-1941. During that period Shanghai was an open port and one of the few places in the world where visas were not required for entry.

"We were very lucky, and we are still very grateful to the Chinese people," said Sasson.

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